Quail bisteeya

Quail bisteeya

At Home with Ben
Mark Roper

In 2001 I spent four weeks filming in Morocco. Moroccan history runs deep and the country’s food has been influenced by many cultures over the centuries, from Spanish and French to Jewish and Persian. The use of spices in Moroccan cooking is almost unequalled, achieving great subtlety and depth of flavour. The combination of sweet and savoury is quite profound!

Bisteeya is one of Morocco’s iconic dishes, making great use of the signature sweet and savoury combination. Traditionally it’s made with warka pastry, which isn’t too dissimilar to filo, only thinner. To make things easier, I use filo, as do most Moroccans these days!


Quantity Ingredient
1/2 cup crushed toasted almonds
1/2 cup crushed toasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus extra to serve
2 tablespoons icing sugar, plus extra to serve
8 sheets filo pastry
250ml Clarified butter


Quantity Ingredient
bunch coriander, roots and tops, separated and washed
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
10 french shallots, thinly sliced
8 large quails, boned and split in half
5 eggs, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 lemon, zested


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. To make the filling, roughly chop the coriander roots and place them in a mortar or food processor, along with the garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Pound with a pestle or process to a paste, then add the ginger, cumin and turmeric and combine. Add the shallots and combine.
  3. Place the split quails in a roasting tin and combine with the shallot and spice mixture. Pour in enough water to half cover the quails. Allow to marinate for about 2 hours; this isn’t essential so don’t worry if you don’t have enough time.
  4. Cover the tin with foil or baking paper and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the quails are just cooked and still a little pink.
  5. Allow to cool, then place the quails on a chopping board. Remove any bones, then roughly chop the meat. Place the roasting tin on the stovetop over medium heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by a quarter, then return the chopped meat to the tin. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs and slowly heat until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Season with salt and pepper, then add the coriander leaves, parsley and lemon zest. The mixture should resemble perfectly scrambled eggs, and be quite thick and not watery.
  6. Blend the almonds and pine nuts in a food processor, then combine with the cinnamon and icing sugar. Set aside.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  8. Layer 4 sheets of filo pastry in a 25 cm frying pan or baking tin, buttering each sheet with clarified butter. Place the layers so they face in different directions to cover all sides of the pan or tin. Sprinkle the fourth layer with the nut mixture. Repeat with another 4 layers of filo, once again sprinkling the fourth layer with the nut mixture.
  9. Spoon the quail filling on top of the pastry, then fold back the overhanging edges of filo to create a closed top. You may need to add a few extra sheets of filo to seal the top. Press down firmly and brush the top layer of pastry with clarified butter. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Allow to rest, then turn out onto a large serving plate.
  10. To serve, sprinkle with icing sugar and cinnamon.
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